AITO operators and AITO Specialist Travel Agents are delighted to unveil a comprehensive line-up of high-profile speakers at their first ever joint overseas conference, to be held from 16-19 June, 2011, in the emerging destination of Vilnius, Lithuania.

The conference, which has been combined to celebrate two milestones - the 35th anniversary of AITO and the 15th anniversary of AITO Agents - will see a mix of big-name speakers from both inside and outside the travel industry.

 

They will address an array of current topics, featuring talks and joint business sessions for all delegates, along with sessions of specific interest to either agents or operators. All of the sessions will be interactive, with much opportunity for Q&A and audience participation.

The speaker programme will include:

· Andrew Cohen and David Clover from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) talking about the consequences of the ATOL Certificate and Flight-plus

· Rochelle Turner from Which? Travel Magazine speaking about what consumers want from their holidays

· Former Director of STA Travel, Dick Porter, revealing how he was able to let go of the reins at the world's largest student, youth and budget travel company; his experiences will be contrasted with Anthony Skitt, reflecting on his experience of becoming the new Managing Director of Classic Cottages, the UK’s leading independent holiday cottage company

· National journalist and SEO expert, Mark Hodson, on why Twitter and Facebook are no longer a waste of time

· Travel trade journalist, April Hutchinson, on how key luxury players sell service and quality in such a price orientated market

· Inspiration from the leadership and management guru, Bernie Price, about how to get the most out of your team

· Fred Hervey from Berenberg Bank, providing an economic update and forecast

· Former Chief Executive of Hoseasons, Richard Carrick, on how to run a successful customer-centric business

· Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Costa Coffee Foundation, Piers Blake, talking about creating a successful sustainability programme

· Alastair Donnelly of InsideJapan Tours, speaking about its disaster management experience following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan earlier this year

· Michael Dupont from The Cruise Portfolio, looking at what’s in store for the rapidly expanding cruise industry, including his thoughts on Complete Cruise Solution’s decision to reduce commission to 5%

· Craig Hassell from the English National Ballet on changing perception and reaching new audiences

· Jim Long from Chivas Regal on aligning brands with tourism in projects such as Elephant Polo in Nepal and its recently-launched Glenlivet Smugglers’ Walking Trails Sponsored by the Lithuanian National Tourism Office, the conference will also update delegates on AITO developments, announcing the latest news and projects from the panel and giving attendees the chance to share their views, in order to strengthen the organisation even further.

The new joint conference format will reinforce even greater links in the spirit of the Closer Ties scheme between AITO and AITO Agents, which offers numerous benefits to the consumer including 100% financial protection, lowest prices possible and the maintenance of high standards.

The new conference format will also allow for further agent-operator networking, with the aim of leading to more direct-sell operators learning about the opportunities and benefits of working with the UK’s leading agents.

Oliver Broad, AITO Agents’ Chairman, says: “We’re excited to have so many fantastic speakers on board for our first-ever joint overseas conference, all covering important topics that genuinely matter to our delegates and the travel industry as a whole. Many members of AITO and AITO Agents are set to attend and we look forward to welcoming them to Vilnius, encouraging all of those who haven’t yet booked their place to do so now, before it’s too late.”

Derek Moore, AITO Chairman, says: “AITO and AITO Agents work so well together, thanks to regular product training sessions plus the Closer Ties agreement and All Stars incentive scheme, which has reported a big sales rise this year compared with last year. It’s only fitting, therefore, that we bring the two organisations together for our first joint conference, especially with two anniversaries to celebrate. It will be the perfect environment for networking, as well as to tackle some of the industry’s most important issues.”

During the conference, delegates will have the chance to explore the picturesque city of Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, with walking and sightseeing tours available throughout the afternoon of 18 June. Still a little-known but increasingly popular, good value for money destination among UK travellers, Vilnius has stunning Baroque and Gothic architecture and its extensive Old Town is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Some of the city’s gems include the centuries-old Upper Castle on Gediminas Hill, the cathedral in the main square, St Anne’s Church - a Gothic masterpiece - and the Gates of Dawn, one of the most sacred places for Catholics in the world, with its 17th century icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The city is now easier than ever to reach, with new flights with Wizz Air from Luton which started in April 2011, and airBaltic from Gatwick starting in October this year.

For more information about Vilnius and Lithuania go to www.lithuaniatourism.co.uk.

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